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India faces second terror attack in a week- How will the Modi government respond?

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By Aishwarya Nag Choudhury

The Udhampur attack

Udhampur was another attempt at carrying out terrorist attacks in India after the recent Gurdaspur attack. Villagers in Jammu and Kasmir overpowered a young Pakistani terrorist who had taken them as hostages. Prior to that, two militants attacked a BSF convoy at Narsu Nallah, 16 kms away from Jammu, and killed two jawans injuring 13 more. As one of the assailants were shot by the troopers, the other escaped from the site with his weapon.

Lone terrorist captured in Udhampur attack
Lone terrorist captured in Udhampur attack

He took shelter in a nearby village 15kms away after flashing his AK-47. The unnerved residents fed the hungry intruder, later identified as Usman alias Quasim. When he sought help to escape, the men in the house grappled him and took his weapons away. “After we took his weapons away he pleaded ‘mujhe mat pakdo, mujhe mat pakdo’,” said the people of the house. The militant was handed over to the security forces that immediately secured him with a rope and took him away.

Police said that the young militant was linked to Lashkar e Taiba (LeT). According to sources, the Pakistani terrorist confessed that they were aiming at the Amarnath Yatra. He also mentioned that there were 16 terrorist modules working in Jammu and Kashmir at the time.

In New Delhi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval apprised PM Modi of the incident. Even though there have been indications that the Pakistani would be flown back, the Home Ministry said that they would probe the matter.

“I am from Pakistan and my partner was killed in the firing but I escaped. Had I been killed, it would be Allah’s doing. There’s fun in doing this, I came here to kill Hindus,” the suspected Let operative said to the security forces.

This is the second attack on India within a span of a week. Before this, the attack on Punjab’s Gurdaspur claimed seven lives and threatened many. Terror attacks on India are becoming more frequent and effectively putting strains on Indo-Pak relations.

Is Pakistan Unwilling or Unable to deal with terror? Or are they also victims of global terror?

On the 6th of August, The Huffington Post published an article named “Pakistan tests Modi’s mettle with Gurdaspur terror attack” – the Post explained that Pakistan became alarmed at Narendra Modi’s election to be PM. This was because India gained its nuclear status during a BJP government. Moreover, the “brave India” Modi promised, gave hopes that his government would not indulge Pakistani predations and punish them instead, has alarmed the Pakistanis. “Last week, Pakistan tested the water by dispatching three terrorists into Gurdaspur via the Ravi rivers,” the Post wrote.

Gurdaspur-Attack

In the aftermath of the Ufa talks, the Gurdaspur attack and the attack on BSF troops have inevitably strained Indo-Pak relations besides garnering overwhelming attention. While Modi’s next steps regarding Pakistan are still awaited, it raises multiple questions regarding Pakistan’s capability, state policy, and the potential of handling 21st century terrorism.

India has always been vulnerable to terror attacks. From the 1993 Bombay blasts- that shook the country’s commercial capital- to the Varanasi Hanuman temple blasts, India has been a victim of innumerable terror attacks claiming innocent lives and damaging national pride. Every time Indo-Pak relations stabilize, there is an attack on India having adverse effects on the relations of the country. From the Samjhauta express followed by Kargil to the Ufa talks followed by the Gurdaspur attacks, this has been a discernible trend in Indo-Pak relations. This makes us question Pakistan’s role in the sponsorship of terrorism.

Are Pakistani terror groups a typical example of state sponsored terrorism? Or is the counter-terrorism policy by Nawaz Sharif a complete failure? The conclusion ultimately remains that Pakistan is either unable or unwilling to deal with terrorism.

To be fair, Pakistan has also been a victim to many terror attacks. Operation Zarb-e–Azb’s attack on the army run school added to the US strategy of bombing Afghanistan. This triggered President Musharaf to adopt a strong anti-terrorism policy. The irony was that, how was Pakistan to deal with terror? The Human Rights Watch documented how not only many government personnel and law enforcing agency were under red alert, but also how school buildings, Polio vaccination sites, and journalists were also being targeted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban. These instances question Pakistan’s capability to deal with terror.

There are reports revealing that the government is divided about anti-terror laws in Pakistan. This seriously questions Pakistan’s capability to deal with such challenges. “The National Crisis Management Cell and the National Counter Terrorism Authority are yet to draft a workable policy,” said a Pakistani Govt. official.

Terror attacks in Pakistan are mostly executed by the TTP and some other banned outfits. TTP is an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban group, and it aims to dismantle the Pakistani Government. The Peshawar attacks and the Islamabad blasts stand as apt examples of TTP potential in Pakistan. This makes Pakistan naturally concerned about restricting its outreach. However, other terrorist agencies continue to operate from within the country. According to a US report, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group behind the 2008 Bombay attacks, is continuing to “operate, train, rally, propagandize and fund-raise in Pakistan.”

“The Pakistani military undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as TTP, but did not take actions against other groups such as LeT,” the State Department said in its annual report. According to the report the Afghani Taliban and the Haqqani network still are allowed to operate within its borders. This raises concerns about possibilities of state sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. Even though after the US operations, Al-Qaeda’s core operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been seriously degraded but the attacks on Gurdaspur and Udhampur is a danger toll for India.

India is being victimized – Will Modi deliver promises of ‘Brave India’?

With the security of the country being de-stabilised, will Modi stand up to his promise of guarding India’s national pride?

Source: Google images
Source: Google images

In an Hindustan Times report it is stated that “in spite of provocation the Modi government is on course to engage with the Pakistani’s on the basis of the recent Ufa joint statement at a National Security Advisor level dialogue followed by talks between chiefs of border forces and the heads of national border operations.” The report also quoted unnamed officials as saying that “India believes it was part of an effort by the Pakistani military ISI complex to get New Delhi to call off the NSA level talks to be held in August.” The meeting between Modi and Sharif in Ufa happened after sustainable diplomatic feelers from Pakistan to the Indian government.

Modi still seems reluctant in calling off the talks and taking strict action against Pakistan as he had promised before elections. The PM says that until Pakistani state involvement is proved, relations should be handled with diplomatic cautiousness.

This is the second attack India has faced in one week. The common people’s safety is at risk. With terrorism effectively staining our national pride, will the Modi government respond?

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)